An Alaska legislator from Kenai shared a Facebook post to his personal page last week that compares members of the news media and medical experts who share information about COVID-19 vaccines with Nazis who were executed for war crimes.
Rep. Ron Gillham, R-Kenai, posted an image, which has spread elsewhere on social media, including a misattributed photo showing the hanging executions of Nazis in the Ukraine in 1946.
Below the photo was the claim, “Members of the Media who lied and misled the German People were executed, right along with Medical Doctors and Nurses who participated in medical experiments using living people as guinea pigs. Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it.”
Above the photo was the caption: “Still so sure you want to try to force me to get the experimental vaccination?”
AFP Fact Check, a service of a French news agency, previously reported that the image contains misleading and false information. The location of the public hanging it cites is incorrect, and AFP also reported that just one person in media was executed during the Nuremberg trials.
Gillham removed the post after the Peninsula Clarion contacted Gillham about it and first published a news article on it.
Asked Tuesday morning about the post, Gillham said, “I forwarded a post that I believed was a historical incident. That was it.”
He was not available to talk on the phone, saying he was traveling back to his home after a special session of the Alaska Legislature.
By text message, he said, “I do believe that those in the media should be held accountable for what they post. There are those on both sides of the issue so one side is not telling the truth. I have my opinion and you have yours. I am not trying to force anyone to believe as I do and I expect the same courtesy, that is all.”
Asked to explain what he believes, he referred back to his prior statement.
Asked whether he believes members of the media and medical professionals should be executed, he said, “Absolutely not. I am not an advocate for violence.”
When asked why he removed the post, he said, “No reason.”
The COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the U.S. are authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration and have completed extensive clinical trials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized that the vaccines are safe and effective. More than 317 million doses have been given in the United States as of last week, and the vast majority of emerging virus cases and deaths are occurring among people who aren’t vaccinated.
Earlier this year, Gillham was one of two state legislators who answered a survey by Alaska Public Media by saying they would not get a vaccination.
“I don’t do drugs — that’s the bottom line. I don’t get the flu shot. If I get sick I’ll take an aspirin,” he told Alaska Public Media. “I had the COVID. I lost my sense of smell and taste. That’s it. Never got sick.”
The state of Alaska and public health officials are encouraging Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to stop the ongoing pandemic. Alaska formerly had the highest vaccination rate in the nation; it’s now below the national average.
Gillham, a first-term member of the state House, is part of the 18-member Republican minority. House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said she wasn’t familiar with the post until it was described to her.
He was elected in 2020 after the death of incumbent Rep. Gary Knopp. In the first year of Gillham’s term, he has tended to vote in line with fellow Kenai Republicans and Republicans from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Recent posts to his Facebook feed include updates on state budget discussions and his opinions on legislative developments in Juneau interspersed with conservative memes, photos of classic cars and posts about Kenai Peninsula businesses.
On Facebook, he has also described Alaska Airlines’ decision to join the oneworld alliance of airline partners as “troubling” (“I wonder what will be next maybe a one world currency or a one world religion”); said he hasn’t “watched football since the first anti American knelt”; and asked whether others also disliked the " ‘you must get your vaccine to save humanity’ commercials.”